If you're passionate about giving children the framework they need to succeed later in life, then you've probably already thought about an education or school administration degree. The skills and knowledge available through the study of education at the highest level can give your job prospects a boost and help you better understand the issues facing the education profession today.
According to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), campus-based and online education degree programs ranked among the top five most common subjects in higher education. Here's a table of further NCES data that shows how many schools in each of eight U.S. regions offer traditional or online education degrees:
|No. of institutions with art and design degree programs
|No. of institutions offering art and design degrees online
|Far West (CA. OR, WA, NV, AK, HI)
|Rocky Mountains (ID, MT, UT, WY, CO)
|Southwest (AZ, NM, TX, OK)
|Plains (MO, KS, IA, NE, MN, ND, SD)
|Southeast (AR, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, KY, VA, WV)
|Great Lakes (IL, IN, OH, MI, WI)
|Mideast (PA, NY, NJ, DE, MD, D.C.)
|New England (CT, MA, RI, VT, NH, ME)
|Total (all 50 states)
Entry-level education degrees
You can start your journey to a career in education at any academic level, whether you've completed previous schooling or not. Here are some details about entry-level degrees, certificates and other training in education:
- Associate degrees - If you're hoping to become more knowledgeable about leading instructive play and otherwise educating young children, associate degrees in education should be the first place you look — many of the campus-based and online associate degree programs in education focus on effective teaching techniques for students in their earliest years. Students can study child development, preschool management, curriculum development, children's literature, health and safety, nutrition, observation and assessment and more.
- Bachelor's degrees - A wide range of educational specialties opens up at the bachelor's level, including elementary education (grades K-6), secondary education (grades 6-12), special education, physical and health education and more. Aspiring teachers may also choose programs that train them for classroom work in a particular subject, such as history, science, math or English. Some degrees also provide a path to a teaching license for in-state educators, to give students a more direct route to the workforce after graduation.
- Non-degree study - Undergraduate certificates for child care administrators, preschool teachers, playgroup leaders and other early childhood education professionals can be earned at several institutions around the country. College graduates with degrees in subjects other than education may also be able to find non-degree programs that can certify them to teach their subject of study at public schools in their state.
If you're hoping to work toward a job in education but don't think you can commit the time or money it takes to earn a traditional education, online education degrees may be worth looking into. If your learning style is flexible enough to adapt to the digital distance education environment, you'll be able to choose among a range of degree plans with permissive scheduling regimes and often lower tuition costs.
Advanced-degree education programs
Education scholars, researchers and administrators typically need an advanced education to handle the complex challenges present at the top level of the field. Here's some detail about curriculum design degrees, school administration degrees and other advanced fields of study in education:
- Master's degree programs - Just about any aspiring educator or school administrator has a degree waiting for them in graduate school. The specialties available in campus-based and online education degree programs at the master's level include language and literacy, arts in education, education policy and management, school leadership, education technology, teacher education, bilingual and multicultural education, school psychology and more. Degrees may be delivered in Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA), Master of Education (MEd) or Education Specialist (EdS) formats and typically take between two and four years to complete.
- Doctorate programs - Doctoral degrees from traditional and online education schools come in several varieties as well, of which some are designed for practitioners and others designed for professional scholars and researchers. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees are typically of the latter variety, preparing graduates to contribute to the education field through their own academic accomplishments, while instructional designer and school administrator degrees more often fall under the Doctor of Education (EdD) umbrella, although some crossover does exist between the two degree types.
- Graduate certificates - Graduate certificates are numerous and nuanced in the education profession, since the range of education specialties is so vast and most campus-based and online education degrees can't cover all the possibilities and eventualities of the profession in the span of just a few years. Subjects such as teacher education, school leadership, special education, urban education, academic advising, school counseling, instructional technology, applied linguistics, teaching English as an acquired language and more may be available, depending on your chosen school.
Online education degree programs are fairly common at the graduate level as well, and they can be a great option for established education professionals who don't want to take too much time away from their career to further their education. Working teachers may also be able to take some professional development or other required continuing education courses in the virtual classroom.
Q&A with an expert
What's the most common educational path for those interested in pursuing education as a career?
After graduating from high school, students go directly to 4-year teacher education programs with teaching certification in a selected subject area.
Many career changers go into graduate school teacher education programs to pursue a master's degree with teaching certification in a selected subject area. They do not need to have teaching experience or credential to be accepted into the programs. They will need to have an arts and science related concentration, though, in their undergraduate study.
Are there specific post-bachelor's credentials beyond the basic teaching certificate that can increase job prospects for new graduates?
There are many different types of extension certificate programs (such as bilingual education, gaming and learning, middle school extension, STEM education, virtual education, etc.) that can make new graduates more attractive.
What would have been helpful to know about the education field when you were looking into your own degree plan?
Make sure to expose yourself in the education environment so you know if this is a good match for you. In education, there's always a connection to field experience.
What's something that would surprise most students to learn about the job market for education degree graduates?
Most students are surprised to learn about the increasing open positions in all levels of teaching and the varied positions as well as flexibility they have for their mobility in the teaching or education system. Most students are also surprised to learn the high average salary in teaching.
Types of education careers
It takes a wide variety of jobs to keep a school system running and ensure that education policy works to serve as many students as possible. Here are a few of the careers for which graduates of campus-based or online education schools may qualify, along with some salary and job outlook figures presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors
|Special Education Teachers, All Other
|Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education
|Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education
Common misconceptions about education degrees
Education is an important field of study and practice, but there are a few things that the popular imagination sometimes gets wrong about campus-based and online education degrees. Make sure you're not hanging on to any of these misconceptions if you're looking into traditional or online education schools:
Misconception: An education degree is a bad investment because teachers are paid so poorly.
- Fact: This is probably the biggest misconception out there, and it's off the mark in a couple of ways. First off, the average elementary school teacher in the U.S. makes between $50,000 and $60,000 annually, and the BLS reports that the top 10 percent of earners in the field took home more than $85,550 in 2015. On top of that, a large percentage of education degrees — particularly at the graduate level — prepare students for careers other than classroom teaching. One of these might be a degree in early childhood education, or in special education.
Misconception: The only ones who get education degrees are public school teachers.
- Fact: It's definitely the case that many graduates of traditional or online education degree programs are solidly equipped to go into elementary or secondary education, but those are far from the only skillsets taught in education schools. Students can also obtain instructional design degrees, school administration degrees, educational research degrees, certificates in adult education, instructional technology degrees and more.
Misconception: Employers don't want to hire applicants who got their degrees online.
- Fact: Online degrees did experience a period of skepticism from employers and academic administrators when they first came on the scene, but they've been around for long enough now that they're approaching universal recognition as equal to campus-based degrees from the same institution. Most employers these days know that your alma mater's reputation for educating quality graduates is more important than whether or not you sat in a classroom on campus to earn your credit hours.
How can I enroll in an online education degree program?
Campus-based and online education programs are numerous and diverse, and so are the admissions and enrollment policies in place at the schools where they're offered. Browse our college listings below, pick out a few institutions that look like a good fit for you and get in touch to find out what steps you should take to get on the path to your degree.